Regulators

MIB has no data on OTTs; not under regulation: Minister

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NEW DELHI: The government on Thursday while admitting it has no official data relating to OTT industry, including number of players and subscribers, said the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) doesn’t regulate internet-based video services.

“MIB does not regulate paid streaming and video-on-demand services provided over the internet. However, there are enough safeguards available under the Information Technology Act, 2000, which is administered by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), for content appearing on paid streaming and video-on-demand services,” MIB junior minister Rajyavardhan Rathore informed Indian Parliament’s Lower House or Lok Sabha. 

The government stand is significant because increasingly voices of criticism were being heard from the conservative section of society questioning edgy content on OTT platforms that technically don’t have to follow any content code like done by linear TV, which also broadly follows guidelines on content as enumerated in the Cable TV Act 1997, apart from imposing self-regulations administered by industry bodies like NBA and IBF.

With original shows and serials on OTT platforms operating in India increasing by the day --- egged on by global and domestic players like Netflix, Amazon, Hotstar, VOOT and Arre  --- the fledgling industry segment has given content producers a platform where out-of-the-box themes are being tested and tried.

According to Rathore, who was answering a series of questions on the country’s OTT services, there were no official figures available with the ministry.

However, MIB quoted Frost & Sullivan to state it is estimated there were around 70 million unique connected viewers of which 1.3 million were paid video subscribers.

While not directly stating whether the government proposed any content regulations for OTT platforms, Rathore clarified that IT Ministry was empowered to block and/or censure content and its distributors on several grounds, including those relating to security of the country, foreign relations and pornography.

As of now OTT platforms in India could breathe easy as regulator TRAI, too, has not issued any guideline relating to OTT content preferring to restrict its diktat on the telecoms side of net neutrality. Still, many OTT platforms, some of which are digital extensions of traditional TV services owned by big broadcasting companies, prefer to do self-censorship on edgy content in shows like the Game of Thrones.

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